GoT 7.4 The Spoils of War: A Review

Warning. Everything in this post is a spoiler.

Well, Sunday’s episode pushed us over the halfway mark. In only three weeks Game of Thrones will conclude its seventh season and we will again enter The Long Night. If the remaining episodes can somehow build on The Spoils of War we’ll have have more than enough hype to carry us through.

The episode opens with A Song of Ice and Fire’s greatest character, Bran. He receives the loathsome Littlefinger, whom in his conniving, manipulative way thinks it prudent to gift a clearly damaged child the weapon that almost ended his life. I feel no shame in confessing that I hoped Bran would take said gift, flip it around, and shank the living tar out of Littlefinger. Instead, Bran decides to drag out the process of Littlefinger’s shame and downfall, turning his own words against him (“chaos is a ladder”), causing his mind to splinter into a million pieces.

We are, thankfully, at a point where Littlefinger’s demise is imminent. Just one week after instructing Sansa to “fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind” he comes face to face with a character that is one step shy of omniscient. So much for being one step ahead of everyone chap. With the caveat that this show is known for turning assured situations on their head, I look forward to watching Littlefinger’s plans unravel over the next three weeks.

Now more than ever we must take care to watch everything Bran does. As the three-eyed raven he has a plan. Losing his entire self north of the wall, means his sole purpose will be directed to defeating the White Walkers. Every move he makes from here on out, however subtle, will be carefully calculated, will subtly shifts pawns into place; like giving Arya the catspaw’s Valyrian steel dagger.

Back in episode 7.1, Dragonstone, this very same dagger is highlighted in the book Sam ‘borrows’ from the restricted section. Last week I said—referring to Davos almost revealing Jon’s death—that when things/events/questions are mentioned twice they move from coincidental to consequential.

In The Spoils of War, Bran asks Littlefinger if he knows who its owner was. The pertinent passage from Sam’s book refers to the Targaryens. It is not a stretch to think this dagger belonged to a Targaryen we know. But if so, who? In the show only three Targaryens other than Daenerys have had a reasonable amount of screentime or exposition: Aemon Targaryen, Maester at the Wall; Aegon Targaryen, the first Targaryen King of Westeros; and Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother and Jon Snow’s father. Of these few the likely answer, what with the lingering revelation of Jon Snow’s parentage, is Rhaegar. If this turns out to be true the greater question is, why does it matter and what bearing does it have on the story? Will Arya use it as effectively as she did in her sparring with Brienne?

Not pictured: Littlefinger shitting himself.

On Dragonstone, Daenerys prevents Jon from leaving. She does, however, perform an about face when shown convenient, ancient cave carvings. For a woman that doesn’t believe Jon and Davos at their word about White Walkers (and rightly so) she seems far too willing to believe in evidence of their existence provided courtesy of another near-mythical species.

Finally, this week, the battle! Field of Fire 2.0, or should we call it Fields of Gold, is in immediate contention for the best Game of Thrones battle. Tell me that when Drogon appears over the grassy hills chills didn’t run up your spine. Lie to me and say you didn’t screech in giddy anticipation as Daenerys and the Dothraki bore down on the Lannisters. I mean, we got a dragon in full combat! We have never been so blessed.

 

Objectively, the coolest thing ever.

Brief moments in other battles, such as Jon shattering a White Walker with Longclaw, or the charge during Battle of the Bastards, were brilliant but none have been able to sustain suspense and tension for long. Until this week. In the span of ten minutes I went from rooting for the Dothraki and Daenerys, to feeling the fear of the Lannister foot soldiers, to being absorbed in Bronn’s dash for his life, to cheering for Bronn’s cleverness, to cursing Bronn’s name for nearly killing Drogon, to sympathizing with Tyrion, to praying for Jaime. My emotions were set aflame like the cargo train.

We have dragons to thank for this never-ending sense of awe and unease. The destruction they bring is both exhilarating and terrifying. Now imagine what all three dragons could do if unleashed. The Night King better get to work on that Ice Dragon or he’s screwed.

Jaime attempts to end Daenerys’ conquest and prevent history from repeating itself.

The Spoils of War ends with Jaime sinking into a pond that has conveniently transformed into an ocean. I’m have no doubt he is alive; Bronn, who is not wearing armor, will save him. In the words of a friend “full plate armor sinks, but plot armor floats”.

Questions and Daydream Material for Episode 5:

Here’s the trailer for Eastwatch.

  • What will become of Jaime?
  • Dany threatens to murder those who will not bend the knee. Is she stepping  closer to the madness that plagued her father? Will Tyrion and Varys be able to convince her to instead take the path of prudence, justice, and mercy?
  • Jon gets up close and personal with Drogon. Perhaps he tries to leave Dragonstone but is prevented by the return of Daenerys.
  • Bran sends word to Jon about the White Walker’s progress south. Will the final two episodes build to an epic confrontation between the armies of the living and dead?

GoT 7.3, The Queen’s Justice: A Review

Spoilers the size of Balerion the Dread lie ahead. Proceed with caution.

It’s safe to say The Queen’s Justice is the best episode so far of Season 7. Game of Thrones has increased the pace in recent weeks, and not entirely because Euron seems to have stolen Littlefinger’s quantum teleporter. Even as a dialogue driven episode, reminiscent of early seasons, the extended episode length allowed for the sieges of both Casterly Rock and Highgarden. What’s more, the increased budget gave us a shot of Drogon flying over Jon, screeching “you’re a Targ, Jon Snow.”

The episode opens with a family reunion, Jon Snow finally gets to meet his Aunt Dany. And it’s sweet, she asks him to be a good boy and bend the knee. But Jon’s been listening to Tormund—”you can never be a kneeler again”—and refuses Daenerys’ demands to come under her rule. After a fair amount of dick-measuring Jon comes away as the initial victor, granted leave to mine dragonglass.

Two events in particular on Dragonstone stood out:

  • While joining the ranks of clifftop brooders, Melisandre informs Varys she must return to Westeros one more time and “die in this strange country, just like you.” In the past I’ve advised the questioning her predictions, but this is stated so blatantly I believe it deserves an exception.
  • Jon’s resurrection was mentioned twice. Davos almost spills the beans before Jon has even spoken a word to Daenerys & Co. This strange remark did not go unnoticed; Daenerys later questions Tyrion about the “knife to the heart”. As a general rule of thumb if something is mentioned twice, explicitly, in one episode it will be a big deal going forward. My go-for-broke theory: Daenerys and Jon will get it on. Dany will see the stab wounds and this will lend credence to his concerns about the Night King and army of the dead.

Speaking of potential revelations concerning Jon, Bran has returned to Winterfell! Or, well, part of him has. Plugging into weirwood.net has messed him up. Witnessing all of the past and the horrors that come along with it would do a number on anyone, let alone a child. Luckily he’s home after years on the run and around his family. If anything can bring him out of his Seer Funk it’s that. I desperately hope Bran is strong enough to retain some of his humanity. As my favorite character I’d rather not watch him descend into despondence and madness after fulfilling what appears to be his main purpose— revealing Jon’s heritage.

In Oldtown, Sam’s treatment of Ser Jorah was successful. Jorah no longer looks like the dried out bottom of a lake. Imagine that, all the maesters had to do to cure greyscale was follow the instructions. Archmaester Ebrose recognizes Sam’s achievement for the miracle it is and rewards him by not booting him from the Citadel and then tasks Sam to transcribe old, falling apart books. Could some of these books have come from the restricted section Sam so desperately wants access to? What goodies and secrets lie in those ancient pages?

I think Sam will discover that Valyrian steel, like dragonglass, can kill the Others. Jon found this out in Season 5 with Longclaw, but he’s the only one who knows, and very well may have thought it was a fluke. He clearly hasn’t mentioned it since, only calling for the mining of dragonglass. This could be the plot reason behind Sam’s theft of Heartsbane, the Tarly’s Valyrian Steel sword. After uncovering the truth he will send word to Jon. It will then be up to Jon to convince the Lords to put their most prized possessions to use.

Across the continent, Euron, who is still the worst, delivers the remaining Dornish women to Cersei and then throws some more sex jokes at Jaime. What a douche. Cersei takes his gifts and reminds us all why she is a force to be reckoned with. No one deserves Ellaria’s fate. If Cersei could eat the souls of her enemies she would.

After getting off on torture Cersei makes an outlandish promise to Tycho Nestoris, emissary of the Iron Bank, promising to pay off all crown debts in a fortnight. I audibly scoffed at the television when she proposed this. The Iron Bank is not an entity you make false promises too. I thought that, for sure, in a few weeks this would result in the death of Cersei. And here lies the main takeaway of this week. Never, ever, ever underestimate the Lannisters. When your back is turned they’ll pull an old switcheroo, trash the remainder of your fleet, and leave you with a defensible, but worthless castle.

As one of the last strongholds to be unveiled I was super excited to see the show’s rendering of Casterly Rock. I anticipated something on the scale of the Eyrie. Casterly Rock is unbeatable, placed atop a small mountain, with a limited approach, and backed up against the sea. It appears budget concerns may have been to blame. I recently obtained this highly classified transcript from a source, planted deep in the Game of Thrones empire. 

“Ser, Dan. Ser Dan,” said the accountant, acknowledging the Lords Paramount of GoT.

“Ah, Bertrand.” Benioff looked up from his Euron action figure. The figure had a drawstring and preprogrammed innuendos and strangely, lacked a shirt.  “Listen, we need more money. It’s been brought to our attention that we forgot about the direwolves. We’ll have to add them in post. Oh, and it turns out we will need to use Casterly Rock and Highgarden after all. “

“More? Sers. I’m afraid that won’t be, er, I don’t think that’s possible.” He did the calculation. “You’ll have to lose at least one dragon shot per episode.”

“Lose dragons. That doesn’t sound right. Not worth it, is it Ser Dan?”

“It is not Ser Dan.”

And so ended the Great Direwolf Debate of 2017. What should Casterly Rock have looked like? Here’s a painting that perfectly encapsulates every description of the Rock by Ted Nesmith. Now that looks impregnable.

In the final minutes of the episode we see the switcheroo play out. When Highgarden is revealed as the true prize we realize Cersei is not always as dumb as she looks. I find it hard to believe the Tyrell’s have amassed enough wealth to pay off an entire continent’s debt over the last twenty years yet not have enough to pay a standing army to protect their home, but I’ll try and not dwell on it.

Olenna Tyrell proved  you don’t have to go out in with your head crushed, or surprised in the loo by your son to have a memorable death. You can just throw back some poison wine, confess your hatred for Joffrey (who as she says, was truly a cunt), and die watching the realization of your wickedness dawn on the face of your enemy. RIP Olenna.

Week Long Daydream Material 

The next episode is called The Spoils of War . Here’s the trailer.

  • Cersei has been winning too much. Something will finally go against her. It looks like the Tyrell gold will be stolen. What ever will she do then, when faced with the wrath of the Iron Bank.
  • My eyes may deceive me but I’m pretty sure in the last shot I can see the stark silver white of Dany’s hair.
  • We see Arya on a hill, looking at Winterfell. Will she arrive this episode?
  • Littlefinger has his Valyrian dagger. Is he planning to ruin everything? God dammit Littlefinger, just die already and leave me alone.
  • Theon looks to be back, pulling his boat to shore with some Iron Islanders. Has he landed on the mainland or back on Dragonstone?
  • Brienne swings her sword in what appears to be an execution. She is probably just practicing with Pod and its a misdirection. I choose to dream, however, that someone finally gives Littlefinger what he deserves.
  • Sansa looks upset. Papers, or letters, are spread before her. Has Maester Wolkan discovered something in Maester Luwin’s records. Perhaps regarding Littlefinger’s meddling with Jon and Lysa Arryn?

GoT 7.2 Stormborn: A Review

Pre-episode Predictions

  • Arya will reunite with Nymeria and it will be sooo sweet! Will her vengeance drive her south or will Nymeria remind her of family and Starks and turn her north?
  • Jon learns of his parentage from Littlefinger and then for some reason chokes him a la Ned in the crypts.
  • Bronze Yohn goes on about Filthy Targs but is reigned in by some means by the end of the episode and plans to ally with Dany begin
  • There will be wonderful banter at Daenerys’ war table. There is a lot of ground for tension. Tyrion could call out Ellaria. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of this. With so few episodes left I think the action will increase and the private arguing, backroom politicking will decrease.
  • It’s about time for an epic naval battle. Looks to be between Greyjoys. Hopefully Theon stabs Euron. A boy can dream.

Stormborn Discussion

Wow. My predictions were surprisingly accurate. Granted, my view of Theon’s mental state just a tad too idyllic and I was way off on Littlefinger’s intentions. Still, I’m going to revel in my glory and relish my Seer status until next week. I’m certain I’ll never be so close again.

Episode 2 of Game of Thrones was mediocre, and I say that with a torn heart. Initially, I was sour on Stormborn but two days of space has restored calm and my hype-meter is at full steam once more. To begin, let’s get my one qualm out of the way. If you’ve already had your daily dose of cynicism scroll down to the divide and dive straight into the exciting things.

Euron Greyjoy is atrocious. I do not understand the fascination with his character. Have we been so conditioned by the show’s poor handling of the Greyjoys, from season four on, that anything not a dog turd is amazing? Please tell me people remember “twenty good men”? And the Kingsmoot, or lack thereof?

Show-Euron is a caricature, an over-the-top villain, that sprang from nowhere to advance the plot in a cheap, unearned way. Last season he arrived on cue, after murdering Balon, at the Kingsmoot. As a mash-up of book-Victarion and book-Euron there was plenty of material to draw on (we could have had Dragonbinder!). Instead we got dick jokes and man not fit to rule over a pebble, let alone the Iron Islands. Case in point: Yara and Theon steal his entire fleet. Really? We’re supposed to believe the most feared pirate in the world employs crews so easily overrun? Even more absurd, he orders the construction of a brand new fleet, in record time, which somehow is now the greatest armada in the world.

In a show lauded for its writing and portrayal of intricate political maneuverings does this hold up to scrutiny? No. As a result Euron’s victory Sunday night was hollow. That said Euron is fun, and the farther we get into Season 7 I’m finding it hard to hate him. Especially since he successfully destroyed the Sand Snakes and leaping onto a boat in chainmail (as Victarion would) while wielding an axe was thrilling. If he continues to be straight evil and take be more straight evil as book Euron I’m all in.


On to the good stuff! Despite what you just read, or skipped, I enjoyed the episode. There was a lot more for it than against it. For starters, Nymeria! Just look, look at her gloriousness! She’s massive.

Curse the writer who chose to make her leave. But rest assured, she will most certainly be back. As GRRM put it himself “you don’t hang a giant wolf pack on the wall unless you intend to use it.”

Arya got to spend this episode on memory lane. Thanks to another reunion with fan favorite and lovable Hot Pie, Arya learned that Winterfell is no longer under the control of the Dastardly Bolton’s. It seems that human interaction, courtesy of Ed Sheeran and Hot Pie, has warmed her heart. News of her family, a hot pie from Hot Pie, and some ale has turned her from her mission of vengeance and instead heads north.

Meanwhile, Bran is presumably going to head south from the Wall. That two Starks are converging on the rest of their family and their ancestral home should give us pause. In the past, Stark family get-togethers haven’t gone so well. The last time Arya was this close to family and happiness she arrived at the Twins on the night of the Red Wedding. Not the best track record. Still, discounting Jon, who’s on his way to pick up a wife (only half joking) we have the potential for a three-Stark meetup, converging on Queen Sansa in Winterfell.

Queen Sansa… Folks, I’m downright thrilled that she is the effective Queen in the North during Jon’s absence. It’s been a pet theory of mine for a long time and I’m glad to be vindicated if only slightly. I’ve been right too often these first two episodes. That means the story is predictable, and that means the tables are about to turn. Something big, something terrible will likely happen in the next several weeks.

Another Queen, Daenerys, namesake of the episode, holds the strangest war council in Westeros, replete with a eunuch, a wanted patricidal dwarf, the illegitimate rulers of Dorne, and the sassiest Grandma around. There’s a lot of tension and thankfully some dirt is aired rather than being swept under the rug. Tyrion confronts Ellaria about murdering his niece, Dany questions Varys’ loyalty, and when Mel arrives her loyalty and motives are finally questioned. This plotline ended with a lot of questions. Especially after Euron destroyed a good chunk of Dany’s fleet. We’ll have to wait til Sunday to find out the full ramifications of this but I think its safe to say that Jon will find himself on more even footing now that her position is a slightly more precarious.

Watching Cersei, in her best Trump impression, incite the few lords loyal to her into action against foreigners, was almost as bad as having to look at sniveling, ‘Bringin Shit Back from the Dead’ Qyburn. I will not stand for ‘Once-Maester’ Qyburn’s hijinx (just cause you’ve been studying your history doesn’t mean you have the right to bring down one of Dany’s dragons the way Meraxes was during the First Dornish War). Thanks to him the Lannister’s, for the first time this season, don’t look like they’ll be so easily raked over the coals and suddenly Field of Fire 2.0 just got that much more intense.

Finally, let’s discuss Samwell, the king of montages and transitions. While many find it disgusting I find his shit-capades kind of hilarious and hope this trend continues. This week on How to be a Maester he got to play surgeon, attempting to cure Ser Jorah of greyscale. I like that for a man who at times considers himself to be without bravery (even after being the first to slay a White Walker in thousands of years) Sam never ceases to help the weak and do what he thinks is right. Jorah is lucky to be in his hands. Will Jorah have the fire hand that the show omitted by replacing Victarion? Probably not. Will he defend Sam and Gilly as they attempt to flee Oldtown? Maybe. Will Archmaester Ebrose tag along with Sam and head to Dany as his book equivalent Archmaester Marwyn did? A summer-child can dream.

Week-Long Daydream Material

Here’s the trailer for episode 3, entitled The Queen’s Justice.

  • Game of Thrones has a penchant for titles with more than one meaning. At the moment there are three queens in power. Cersei, Daenerys, and Sansa. How will each of them dispense justice.
  • Sansa is in the Godswood in Winterfell. What shenanigans with Littlefinger will we get to witness?
  • Jon Snowgaryen and and Daenerys meet. Will there be a betrothal? We all know Game of Thrones needs more incest.
  • Something crazy will happen. Probably in the form of Cersei and Qyburn inventing horrible ways for Tyene and possibly Ellaria to die.

7.1 Dragonstone: The Beginning of the End

Image result for dragonstone

Twenty-one years after the publication of A Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen finally set foot on Westerosi soil Sunday night. It was everything I could have hoped for. (The dragons almost as big as the castle!) Orchestral swells as the gates of Dragonstone were thrown open raised goosebumps on my arms, not because Dragonstone is the coolest castle in Westeros but because the beginning of the end is here and we’re in for one wild ride.

There’s plenty to discuss about the hour before her return. Sam spewed chunks in the greatest montage in cinematic history, Sandor called Thoros of Myr a “bald cunt”, and Cersei ruined some dude’s wet painting. So let’s say yes to Daenerys’ question and jump right in.

Cold open’s are fairly rare in Game of Thrones; the last revealed that The Hound was still alive. This time we open on Walder Frey, a “bald cunt” if there ever was one. But it’s not Walder, as I assumed for a heartbeat. No, it’s Arya using her skills from the House of Undying to murder the entire freaking House Frey! Yesssss Arya. Get that sweet, sweet vengeance for the Young Wolf and Catelyn Stark.

This does beg the question, how often will we see Arya with someone else’s face? Every time we’re shown a group of people in the Riverlands or King’s Landing from now on I’ll have to examine each for idiosyncrasies of character that could tip me off. There’s simply no way this is the last time she steals someone’s face. Constant Vigilance!

Tinfoil time: Arya will kill Cersei. She says so herself and though Ed Sheeran & Co. laughed her off I happen to believe her. In my preseason post I mentioned the valonqar aspect of Cersei’s prophecy and how Jaime has not distanced himself enough from her to warrant him killing her. I think this could be a clever work-around. Arya could take Jaime’s face and kill Cersei in the most tragic way possible. Cersei, after losing everything, will have to stare into her lover’s eyes as he strangles her.

Unfortunately, for this theory to work Jaime has to die. Not a fan of that. I’m looking forward to him rushing through the Field of Fire 2.0 later this season. I hope this theory remains crinkly tinfoil and never comes to fruition.

Following Slaughterhouse-Frey, Bran witnesses the Night King, an army of wights (please, no Hodor), and Winter march south. No matter how much I love Bran I’ve got to say he’s turning into a terrifying child. Poor Lord Commander Dolorous Edd simply asks him to prove he’s Brandon Stark and instead he launches into a depressing tirade about how death is coming for us all. Jon must have been particularly brooding before he renounced his vows because Edd lets them in.

Take note: Bran has not passed through the Wall. Just as the Night King’s mark on Bran’s arm allowed him to break the magical barriers surrounding the Three-Eyed Raven so to will it break the magic of the wall and bring it crashing down. And wouldn’t it be just Edd’s luck to be the Lord Commander when it falls.

The old Lord Commander spends the episode being honorable. I love seeing Jon as King. As Sansa says, he truly is good at it. I just hope Jon eventually takes some of Sansa’s advice. She hasn’t just suffered at the hands of the Worst of Westeros but learned from them. Her counsel will be vital. Jon can’t always sweep it under the rug as he did on the Karstark/Umber issue.

Thankfully, Jon and Sansa are both reasonable people. They didn’t pull a Hollywood, they talked about their disagreement. Someone should have told them characters aren’t supposed to talk, they’re supposed to brood and let it create conflict, opening up an opportunity for Littlefinger to come in and ruin everything. Not this time Baelish. Jon and Sansa talk and then Sansa shuts Baelish down so hard he has to run to find Maester Wolkan to poultice his burn. Oh ho, I am excited to see conniving Littlefinger’s downfall.

 

Euron was a marked improvement over last season. Some of the magic involved in building 1,000 ships on islands without forests, in record time must have infected him. His quips, extended time on screen, and promises of a gift mean he’s going to be an influence all season. During his audience with the Queen he steps toward the throne and immediately The Mountain makes his presence known. Oh yes, he’ll be involved in something big this season he seems to be telling us. Something…

But seriously, Sandor, hater of the top-knot, Clegane saw visions in the flames, and since he didn’t try to interpret them or add his own twist to it—Melisandre anyone?—they were accurate. This is a big deal. Has he been able to see visions all his life but never did only because he’s afraid of fire? Moreover, was it this ‘baptism’ by fire that gave him this ability in the first place. Intriguing questions we’ll probably never know the answer to.

I can’t wait to what role The Hound and The Brotherhood Without Banners fight alongside Jon against the White Walkers. We could have some of the most legendary figures of Westeros fighting side by side in just a few weeks. Jon, Tormund, Beric, Brienne, The Hound. Who doesn’t want to see Beric’s lightsaber, I mean Lightbringer, I mean flaming sword alongside Longclaw and Oathkeeper?

Let’s wrap up Episode 7.1 discussion with Samwell Tarly. There’s no way he remains at Oldtown all season. There are too many plots converging on him. Since he’s a moron and stole Heartsbane his brothers going to be hunting him down. Then there’s Jorah the Explorer, whom I assume wound up in the Citadel after being commanded by Daenerys to find a cure. They’re definitely going to want to leave together.

But before that happens Sam very well may get kicked out of the Citadel for breaking the rules. You would think Sam would know to take his Invisibility Cloak with him into the restricted section of the library. He’s going to be caught. I hope for his sake it’s by lovable Jim Broadbent and that before he’s caught he finds more useful information like why the dagger used in Bran’s assassination attempt was in the book he pilfered. If not that I’ll settle for him learning how to work a Glass Candle or a number of other things. The Citadel is rife with potential. I hope the showrunners don’t squander it.

 

We have five days before we return Lyanna Mormont and Archmaester Ebrose. Here’s what we have to look forward to:

“A Targaryen cannot be trusted.” God dammit, Bronze Yohn you can’t trust anyone. Luckily, Jon will have some interesting news for you after meeting with Littlefinger in the Crypts of Winterfell.

NYMERIA!!! The reunion we’ve all been waiting for is coming. A direwolf is back. Wait… where’s Ghost? With a massive budget for CGI Nymeria better be huge and around all the time.

Best of luck thinking about anything else this week. If you’re like me and can never get enough I recommend the Youtube channels Ozzyman Reviews and AltShiftX for great reviews of each episode.

 Game of Thrones: Pre-Season Hypestravaganza

If you’re like me you have a problem, an addiction that on the streets goes by the name ASOIAF. Luckily, it’s the greatest time of the year! Game of Thrones returns in 12 hours for seven weeks. To celebrate I’ll be trying something new here on Mediocre Penguin. We’ll talk about the specifics in a minute. Let’s jump right into the hypestravaganza.

Warning: Spoilers lie ahead. SPOILERS. Seriously, don’t be dumb and ruin it for yourself.

If you somehow haven’t seen it here’s the trailer.

We’ve only got thirteen episodes left in the series and we’re far, far past the realm of the books which means I’m as lost as anyone. That feeling is simultaneously exciting, confusing, and terrifying. How have show-only-folks heart’s not exploded from anxiety over the last six years? There’s so much I want to know. Will Benioff & Weiss finally nix Dorne? I pray every night. Will Bran be totally awesome? Damn straight.

Please, please Bran, do some cool shit. You’re my favorite. Don’t let me down.

Anyway. Here’s my, by no means exhaustive, questions and speculations for the next seven episodes broken down by character/location.

 Kit Harington as Jon Snow -  Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Fookin’ Jon Snow

Jon Snow

-As the newly appointed King in the North (so great) he’s got a lot of new responsibility. To the north there’s the White Walkers and their wight army. To the south he has the likes of Cersei, the Freys, and Daenerys. I’m going to predict that Jon ventures north of the Wall as we see in the trailer and gets defeated. Then, in some fashion he will meet with Daenerys to convince her of the true threat to humanity. This meeting will likely occur in the last bit of the season, setting up the main conflict of season eight.

-Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon’s parents. The only questions are: is he still a bastard, if not then will it matter, and how will it be revealed. I hope Bran gets to be vehicle of revelation.

-Jon Snow will not die. As Rhaegar says in the House of the Undying “his is the song of ice and fire.”

Arya Stark

I don’t want it to be so, but I fear it is. Arya will die. Not easily, and not before killing some more but there’s just no way she survives until the end of the series. Not even the fact that Arya is George R. R. Martin’s wife’s favorite character can save her. (If you’re not so sure take a minute to reread the chapter in A Game of Thrones where Jon gives Arya Needle.) Before she dies will she at least get to reunite with Nymeria? Will Jon tousle Arya’s hair one more time? Arya, you stress me out.

Bran Stark

Will Bran be awesome? Will Bran warg a dragon? (OH MY GOD PLEASE!) I have no predictions for Bran, only questions and questions and questions.

Sansa Stark

-Tinfoil time. I’ve thought Sansa will be Queen for several years now and for a long time that meant Queen of the North. Last week I wondered, what if Daenerys fails or sacrifices herself to defeat the White Walkers? Sansa Stark and Jon Targaryen are then somehow left to rule. Ice and Fire. That sounds like a big stretch and too cheesy for Martin but I’m going to throw it out there in case I’m right. We’ll know in two years.

-Will there be a Stark reunion this season? If not, there better not be five near misses. That drives me crazy.

 

Cersei Lannister

Everyone knows Cersei is a dead-woman walking. What crazy things will she do before her death? I have zero substantial ideas but I think she’ll be on the defensive for most of the season.

Jaime Lannister

One of the shows unforgivable sins is the way it handles Jaime’s character. His redemption arc from A Storm of Swords on is masterful. His burning of Cersei’s letter begging for help in A Feast for Crows is one of the greatest “Hell yeah!” moments of the series. The show-runners cannot deny these changes forever. Eventually, Jaime will spurn Cersei when he realizes the monster she has become. He will fulfill the prophecy of Maggy the Frog (he is the valonqar) and strangle her when she tries to do something truly terrible.

 

Tyrion Lannister

-From the trailer it appears Tyrion takes back Casterly Rock using knowledge from when he was placed in charge of its sewer system by Tywin. Sound strange? Trust me. This is exactly how the Unsullied will get into the impregnable Casterly Rock.

-As far as a larger role, I think he will cement his legacy as a diplomat. He will help to ease the tensions between Jon and Daenerys. He will be the Hand the knits the realm together.

Samwell Tarly

Why in the hell did Sam steal his father’s Valyrian steel blade? It makes zero damn sense. Will it give him an epiphany at the last moment while studying at the Citadel that Valyrian steel is crucial to defeating the White Walkers. Probably. Even though we learned that in Season 5 Episode 8 in one of the greatest moments of the show.

King’s Landing

I suspect we haven’t seen the last explosion to rock King’s Landing. In an early season we’re shown a vision of the throne room. At first glance it appears to be snow. But what if it’s ash? We know that there was wildfire under the whole of King’s Landing, not just under the Sept of Baelor. What if one of Dany’s dragons accidentally set if off during the invasion? What if Cersei tries to set it off in one last act of desperation and Jaime has to step in just like he did years earlier with the Mad King?

The Wall

Will the Wall fall? I think so. Imagine this. The final scene of the season. The wall comes crashing down. We see a close-up of the Night’s King, then the camera pulls back and shows his army. Boom. He’s coming to mess some stuff up in season 8.

Clegane-bowl

No questions. It will happen.


 

So that’s the hypestravaganza. Enjoy the beginning of the end tomorrow. Check back every Tuesday morning for some unoriginal thoughts and reactions.

All aboard the hype-train.

The Chronicles of Prydain: A Review

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
Henry Holt and Company, 1964-1968

If there was ever a series that steered the craft of my childhood it was The Chronicles of Prydain. First published fifty years ago these novels established Lloyd Alexander as a giant in children’s literature. Across five books and five years the Chronicles of Prydain, garnered a Newbery Honor (The Black Cauldron), a Newbery Medal (The High King), and two ALA Honors for The Book of Three and The Castle of Llyr.

Alexander’s inventive tale follows the exploits of Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper. At the outset Taran resides in the pastoral paradise Caer Dallben with a three-hundred-year-old wizard and a seasoned war veteran. When his charge, the oracular sow Hen-Wen, escapes her pen and flees into the forest Taran is thrust into adventure and finds its not exactly what he hoped for.

Alexander deftly handle’s his young hero’s coming of age, taking care to never force him into contrived situations. This is never more clear than in Taran Wanderer, the fourth volume of the Chronicles. Its tight focus and lack of world-shaping quests make for the most introspective and, what I feel, is easily the best-written novel of the entire series.

Long ago I yearned to be a hero without knowing, in truth, what a hero was. Now, perhaps, I understand it a little better. A grower of turnips or a shaper of clay, a Commot farmer or a king–every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone.

Taran Wanderer, Lloyd Alexander

During his many journeys across the entirety of Prydain, Taran is joined by three tried-and-true companions. Together, they go from revering the legendary figures of old to becoming ones in their own right.

Fflewddur Fflam: a boisterous and gregarious minor king of the north with a penchant for stretching the truth and magical harp that keeps his tongue in check.

Princess Eilonwy: the queen of strange metaphors and a descendant of enchantresses who never misses an opportunity to tease Taran. Her only tie to her ancestors of Llyr is a magical bauble, the Golden Pelydryn, that glows at her will.

Gurgi: a strange creature, neither animal nor human, but both. He is the most loyal and trustworthy companion one could hope for and a steadfast friend of Taran whom he refers to as “kindly master”.  He is often concerned for his “poor tender head”, protecting himself from “thrashings and smashings” and when he can next fill his belly.

The wonderful, magical land of Prydain. A land so fascinating I doodled it every day of first grade rather than pay attention.

It was truly a pleasure to re-read this series that has given me so much. The Chronicles of Prydain introduced me to the wonderful possibilities of fantasy and instilled a life-long adoration of farm-boys thrust into adventure. My original journey with Taran, Gurgi, Fflewdur, and Eilonwy will never be forgotten.

Series rating: 4 out of 5 crunchings and munchings
Up next: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Wide Window: A Review

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
214 pgs, HarperCollins, 2000

A couple weeks ago while preparing to move, I was clearing my bookshelves. As I was working through my childhood books, lovingly appraising each of them before packing them safely away, I was slapped in the face by wave after wave of nostalgia. When I reached A Series of Unfortunate Events thinostalgia became tinged the scent of horseradish and confusion. Try as I might, consulting all thirteen volumes for reference, I found I couldn’t remember a thing about the third Baudelaire adventure The Wide Window. Adventure is a word which here means latest despairing trial.

This seemed preposterous, on a level of absurdity that rivaled Count Olaf. To say I was a fan of this series as a child is a monumental understatement. How could I have missed one? To give you a glimpse into my childhood madness consider this escapade.

I remember, after tearing through The Grim Grotto (I believe the same day—at the latest, the day after—it was released) sitting on my Batman Animated Series comforter flipping back through the story collecting newly revealed clues. What the hell is the deal with the VFD? I wondered. And why do they care so much about a damn sugar bowl? What will the next book be about? What will its title be? This last question intrigued me. It seemed within the realistic grasp of a twelve year old child to somehow deduce two unpublished and more than likely not-even-started-yet books. Could there be a pattern, a code of sorts, waiting for Trevor to come along with his sole genius and discover what no one else knew?!

Well, obviously.

You see, all the titles follow a pattern. Each word starts with the same letter (I didn’t know the word alliteration yet). Very interesting. There must be a pattern. Quick Robin, to the bookshelf. On the fourth shelf behind the books, next to the John Deere piggy bank and the Batman wallet, is your Secret Agent 007 notebook. Get to work.

My findings: the next, and final, two Baudelaire adventures will begin with the letter E and then the letter J. That’s as far as I got. In time it was revealed that the twelfth and thirteenth books would be called The Penultimate Peril and The End. So basically, I’m awesome, and bow down you filthy pagans. Oh, and do be so kind, forget that I had a 50% success rate by sheer chance, that I was ruined by the abrupt dismissal of alliterative titles with the last book, and that even though I guessed the correct letter ‘E’, I guessed it for the wrong book.

Needless to say, I was more than happy to right this thirteen-year-old mistake and read The Wide Window. If my tale of superior detective skill made you excited to pick up the series, you’re in for a treat. Lemony Snicket is one snarky bastard. It’s fantastic. Sit back and enjoy tales of horseradish, the Incredibly Deadly Viper, and poisonous mushrooms.

Bonus note: Apparently Netflix has made the series into a show. Yes! And, it stars Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket. That’s all I needed to hear. I’ll be there. Who doesn’t want more David Puddy?

Rating: 3 out of 5 Lachrymose Leeches
Up Next: The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander